VR is everywhere. Actually, AR is everywhere – and by that we mean 'actual' not 'augmented' reality. But VR is still in lots of places. Mainly in VR headsets. Actually, only in VR headsets.
We'll start again. VR is very popular at the moment. But, unlike the horror show of the 1990s 'VR revolution' this time around it's genuinely brilliant. Every time we slip a Rift, a Morpheus, a Vive, heck even a Google Cardboard on we still go "ooh" and "aah".
But we're kind of getting used to it now. And while still utterly, ruddy excellent – it takes a lot more for a VR experience to blow our socks off nowadays. And that's not a good sign given that the big name headsets haven't even hit the shops yet.
However, the key players all seem to realise this and, over the last few months, have demoed and hinted at some exciting extras to make their virtual experiences all the more real.
Controllers are being mentioned as much as the headsets recently, and it's clear that the VR brigade wants to add as much realism with their control methods as possible.
Here's how the top platforms are shaping up...
WEAR – Oculus Rift
Unveiled just before E3 back in June, the Oculus Touch controllers are half-moon shaped devices that track your hands during experiences. There are three buttons on each controller: a clickable thumbstick, a trigger for your forefinger, and a button for the three remaining fingers. This combination allows you to do things like point, give a thumbs-up, and grab hold of objects. They are super small, super light and super easy to use.
However, with an eye on the future, Oculus is busy snapping up tech startups that may lead to a VR environment, complete with hand controls, sans-controller. In July, it acquired Pebbles Interfaces, a company specialising in hand-tracking technology, which has spent the past five years working on a controller-less system that integrates a user's actual hand movements into a VR experience.
By using custom optics, sensor systems and algorithms to detect and track hand and finger movements, Oculus is confident the tech will, "over time… unlock new human interaction methods in VR and revolutionize the way people communicate in virtual worlds."
SQUARE – HTC Vive
While the HTC Vive remains the office favourite here at Wareable HQ, the smartphone giant, and its heavy-hitting gaming partner Valve, need to do something about the chunky beasts currently employed for controlling the due-to-launch-in-2015 system.
They work just fine, showing up as virtual representations within some experiences, and hands, wands, whatever game devs decide in others; and they are described as ergonomic by their makers. However, as you can see from the picture above, they are anything but svelte.
They're easy to use, with a trigger button under each forefinger and a circular touchpad on each one. There's also a pressure-sensitive grip but we haven't come across a demo making use of this yet.
The ingredients are all there – they just need to be a lot handier.
NEARLY THERE – Project Morpheus
There's nothing wrong with the PlayStation Move controllers but, come on Sony, why have something so 2016 as Project Morpheus controlled by something so 2009?
Along with the spatially-aware PS4 DualShock control pad, Sony seems to be playing it safe with its input methods.
The good news is that the Japanese company is experimenting with alternative controller ideas. Not only have we seen a modified PlayStation Sharp Shooter gun used on the World War Toons demo, Sony has also shown off special sensors that attach to a bike for stationary indoor VR cycling.